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August 30, 2014, 8:21 pm

A new leader for Philadelphia schools

The Philadelphia School District now has a new leader.

School officials announced Friday that William R. Hite has been named Philadelphia school superintendent.

Hite replaces former superintendent Arlene Ackerman who resigned after three turbulent years.

He comes to the district with impressive credentials.

Hite is currently superintendent of Prince George’s County Public Schools, the second largest system in Maryland. Since his hiring in April 2009, he had led the 135,000-student, majority-poor district to rising test scores.

He has been a middle school and high school reading teacher, a principal and deputy superintendent in Cobb County, Ga., and Prince George’s County before becoming superintendent there.

In two separate visits here, Hite and fellow finalist Pedro Martinez, spent all day answering questions from the community.

Hite made a favorable impression during a public forum last week.

Hite said he increased student achievement, added support for Prince George’s struggling schools, and improved teacher and principal training despite having to cut at least $100 million from the district each of the last three years.

More than his list of accomplishments, Hite’s style appeared to win him praise among many here.

Councilwoman and Education Chair Jannie Blackwell found Hite to be an easy-going and engaging person who sought to answer every question posed to him.

Councilman Kenyatta Johnson liked Hite’s focus on transparency including putting the district’s budget online.

The Rev. Alyn E. Waller, senior pastor at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, the city’s largest African-American congregation also came away impressed with Hite’s knowledge of the classroom.

For Hite to succeed in improving Philadelphia schools he will need to stay true to his commitment to listen to others and be transparent.

As the leader he can’t rely only on his financial officer to be the only one on top of spending. In today’s tough economic climate superintendents have to be skilled in managing budgets.

However the reason why Hite was a better choice over finalist Martinez is not because of accounting acumen for which Martinez was more experienced.

As a former teacher and principal, Hite should understand the critical importance and value of receiving the input and recommendations of those on the front lines of improving public education.

To manage a large, urban school system such as Philadelphia, Hite will need to be good at more than managing budgets and hiring personnel. He will need the cooperation and active participation of teachers, principals, parents and students.

He will also need to know how to deal with powerful politicians and an inquiring press.

Philadelphia’s public schools are vital to the social and economic well-being of this region which is why we wish Dr. Hite much success as the city’s new superintendent.